TORONTO - A BMO holiday outlook suggests Canadians' spending spirits have improved this season, with the bank projecting an average 15 per cent jump in holiday spending over last Christmas.

The Bank of Montreal's 2012 Holiday Spending Outlook finds that survey respondents plan to spend an average of $1,610 this holiday season, up from $1,397 in 2011.

Shoppers surveyed say they plan to shell out an average of $674 for gifts this year, compared to an average of $583 last year.

The top reasons for spending more are having more people to shop for and being better off financially.

Spending on trips is also projected to increase, while amounts allocated for entertaining were expected to fall from a year ago.

Nearly half of respondents say they'll set a loose budget, while three-in-ten say they plan on sticking to a firm budget.

Other analysts weighing in on holiday spending this year also believe Canadians will be more generous with their finances.

A report released last week by Ernst & Young predicted Canadian holiday sales would rise 3.5 per cent over last year, supported by signs of improvement in consumer confidence.

And a study from Deloitte projected Canadians will spend one to two per cent more this holiday season, but an increasing number will check for the best prices online before they head to the mall in a season it expects to be highly price competitive.

Last year, sales were restrained by high household debt, modest wage growth and turbulent global markets.

But the economy has improved slightly since then and consumers appear more willing to open their wallets.

A survey conducted by BMO in January found households kept holiday spending in check, with 76 per cent spending less or the same on holiday gifts, trips and entertaining than in 2010.

Another boost to holiday sales this year could come from new sales pitches by toy makers, suggested Gerrick Johnson, a toy analyst with BMO Capital Markets.

“Consumers this year will benefit from a number of new tactics that retailers have implemented: hot toy reservation systems, more aggressive price match programs, same-day online delivery, and earlier and cheaper layaway,” said Johnson.

“These moves should help toy sales by making more expensive items more accessible, making all items easier to buy. They are also likely to entice earlier sales, which should help lift toy sales throughout the holiday season.”

One-in-five respondents to the BMO survey — conducted by Pollara among 1,000 Canadians — said they didn't plan on creating a budget at all.

And more than half (53 per cent) admitted to making impulsive purchases during the holiday season.

“For most Canadians, the holiday season can be an expensive time of year and one where prudent and responsible financial planning is essential,” said Su McVey, vice-president of marketing at BMO.

“Putting a holiday-specific budget in place ahead of time that sets clear spending limits can keep Canadians from over-extending themselves, and ensure other financial responsibilities and goals stay on track.”

A majority of respondents, or 68 per cent, said they plan to begin shopping before December and 30 per cent said they planned to start prior to November.

Women were twice as likely as men to start shopping before November.

ALSO: Our top 10 online shopping sites:

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  • ASOS

    <a href="http://www.asos.com/?r=2" target="_hplink">ASOS.com</a> is the UK’s largest online-only style and beauty retail store, carrying over 50,000 branded and own label product lines across womenswear, menswear and accessories. ASOS.com allows visitors to narrow their search by trends and collection, as well as provides an online marketplace where you can buy and sell pre-owned vintage. In addition to ASOS.com’s vast social media presence (twitter, Facebook, Pinterest etc), the recently introduced “Fashion Finder” provides an opportunity for consumers to create and personalize outfits, look books and fashion videos.

  • NASTY GAL

    Founded in 2006, <a href="http://www.nastygal.com/" target="_hplink">NastyGal.com</a> launched as an eBay store selling an assortment of highly curated vintage pieces. The international style source now offers new and vintage pieces that are handpicked by the NastyGal.com team. Setting themselves apart from the competition, NASTYGAL.com offers public “want lists” – a shopaholics answer to a wedding registry – that allows friends and family to freely search your most wanted pieces for birthdays, holidays, or just because they love you.

  • MR PORTER

    <a href="http://www.mrporter.com/" target="_hplink">MrPorter.com</a> – male cousin to Net-a-Porter.com – launched in 2011 and has since been doing a bang-up job of cracking the notoriously stagnant men’s online market. While the retailer offers every major designer from Alexander McQueen to Ray Ban, it’s MrPorter.com’s online community that sets it apart from imitators. With features like STYLEPEDIA, an online style council offering tips from style icons such as N.E.R.D’s Pharrell Williams, and an iPhone app for on-the-go advice, men no longer have an excuse to look like Van Wilder.

  • Zappos

    <a href="http://www.zappos.com/index1.zml" target="_hplink">Zappos.com</a> provides members with amazing deals on designer apparel and footwear. Regardless of your budget, Zappos.com promises not only the best prices, but the best service. Zappos.com provides a LIVE HELP service that acts as an instant messenger to their 24/7 on-call support team. If you’re having an issue with products, prices or have other inquiries, Zappos.com has humanized their online platform to ensure that you receive answers to your questions immediately.

  • Singer22

    Bringing consumers closer to the stars than ever before, <a href="http://www.singer22.com/" target="_hplink">Singer22.com</a> provides guests with the option to search by Celebrity Picks and purchase styles worn by A-listers such as Olivia Palermo and Victoria Beckham. If you’re concerned that those Maurie & Eve Tori Buckle Pants won’t look the same on you as they do on Kim Kardashian, not to worry. Singer22.com also provides images of Singer22.com models and regular folk (in the Community section) rocking their gear.

  • Otteny

    <a href="http://otteny.com/" target="_hplink">Otteny.com</a> is a luxury shopping experience for women with a distinct taste for understated luxury and contemporary design. For $35, Otteny.com’s personal shopping team will assemble the perfect look for any occasion – without having to leave your living room. Additionally, with one of the most comprehensive Pinterest accounts on the web, consumers can keep up to date daily with additions to the online store.

  • Rent The Runway

    Known as the Netflix of fashion, <a href="http://www.renttherunway.com/" target="_hplink">RenttheRunway.com</a> is a New York City based service that allows online shoppers to borrow high-end pieces by brands such as Proenza Schouler and Alice+Olivia and return after use for approximately 10% of the retail price. It’s simple: become a member (FREE!), select your style and size (up to six months in advance) and return following your agreed upon reservation time.

  • ModCloth

    <a href="http://www.modcloth.com/" target="_hplink">ModCloth.com</a> features more than 700 independent designers and their stock offers products that go beyond fashion and venture into the world of interior design. ModCloth.com’s “Be the Buyer” platform allows customers to be virtual members of ModCloth.com’s buying team and vote items from emerging designers into production via their ‘Pick It’ and ‘Skip It’ options. Results are posted via ModCloth.com’s active social community and voters are notified if their selections have made it into ModCloth.com’s stockroom.

  • Fitiquette

    Coming to you from Silicon Valley, California, <a href="http://fitiquette.com/" target="_hplink">Fitiquette.com</a> is an online fashion boutique powered by a virtual fitting room. Members create a personalized virtual representation and use this replica to try on different styles and sizes of items offered on the platform. Members see a 3D representation of their model and the clothes they try on, from all 360 degrees. While Fitiquette.com is a relatively new online retailer, the site already boasts an impressive list of brands with a large increase expected in 2012.

  • Shoptiques

    <a href="http://www.shoptiques.com/" target="_hplink">Shoptiques.com</a> is an innovative online retailer that allows customers to shop over 200 boutiques for one flat shipping rate. Shoptiques.com organizes its boutiques by neighbourhood, allowing consumers to "shop like a local". It ships to places around the world, including the U.S., Australia, Canada and France. This one-stop shopping platform is not only a time-saver, but provides independent retailers with an opportunity to join an online community that services the entire world.